Following Apple’s release of iOS 14.5, new data suggests that most users are leaving app tracking turned off. Analytics software company Flurry reports that only 4% of iPhone users have actively chosen to allow an app to track their web activity for advertising purposes.
Tracking on iOS works by using a unique device ID to watch a user move from app to app, collecting information along the way that can be used to personalize ads and measure ad performance. Facebook strongly pushed back against transparency in app tracking, the name of Apple’s new feature that blocks tracking by default. Without tracking, Facebook ads could make less money – even though the business is making tens of billions every quarter and will likely be fine.
Without surprise – The new data is not surprising given that Apple turns off app tracking by default. If an app asks a user to choose whether they want to be monitored, it’s reasonable for many people to say no. But some people have also reported that apps in iOS 14.5 can’t even ask to track them until they first change their settings because the “Ask to Track” option is turned off by default. This can be the case if they choose to limit ad personalization in previous versions of iOS.
In this case, many users did not decline the tracking, but simply did nothing at all. iOS 14.5 never even presented them with a pop-up asking if they would allow tracking.
Antitrust – Apple’s effective blockade on tracking is surely welcomed by customers, but it’s more difficult to argue for it given the current antitrust climate and the legal case against Epic Games, which claims Apple owns. too much power over independent developers. Apple controls which apps are allowed on iOS, which means that all of a sudden it was able to disrupt ad-supported companies like Facebook, while its own apps are performing well. Apple is trying, in effect, to dictate the operation of other competitive companies.
The argument for Apple is that it gives users a choice and makes them aware of something they might not have been before. Give up your data for free services, or not. And it is true that Facebook and others prevent users from understanding what personal information is collected about them. But Apple’s behavioral dopes also come across as a little harsh and feel like a choice pretending to be one.
Either way, all the bickering will likely end up making things better for users in the long run. Facebook will need to become more transparent while Apple may have to wrest part of its grip on its users’ data.